Free Habitats and Hamburg´s Zoo Hagenbeck

By Peter Pabisch

When we read that three billion birds have died recently in North America, mainly in the United States alone, we become concerned. What is happening in the world? Is climate change to be blamed? What other factors counter natural life nowadays? What can we do about it? Measures to correct this tragic development, particularly in this country and in Europe, started decades ago. The German speaking world has contributed its share to protect the livelihood and prevent the extinction of animals. Zoos serve as a major establishment to curtail such disasters, yet the management of zoos makes a great difference in the well-being of its animals.

The first zoos were more like a set of cages in which incarcerated creatures were kept and shown to visitors. The oldest such place of woe was Vienna’s zoo, which has bettered its appearance since World War II when several global awareness movements helped to improve the lives of captive animals. One trendsetter in this direction clearly has been the zoo or Tierpark Hagenbeck in Hamburg. Its founder Carl Hagenbeck Jr. opened it on May 7, 1907, on a 62 acres lot in the outskirts of Hamburg. Now over fourteen thousand animals and over five hundred species enjoy open habitats “fenced” by moats instead of cages. While the animals’ natural environments may not be entirely “true,” the innovated design represents an unquestionable improvement over a previous miserable cage condition.

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